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South to North story: No engagement, no reconciliation

January 2, 2018

Srinagar, Jan 01: The Lethpora fidayeen attack, which left three militants and five CRPF personnel dead, has sent alarm bells ringing from Srinagar to New Delhi.
The involvement of a young local militant, who also happened to be the son of a serving cop, has put forth the troubling reality of South Kashmir, an area that refuses to relent despite soft and hard power being applied in abundance.
The deceased militant identified as teenager Fardeen Khanday also recorded a 7-minute-long video message which popped up on social media after his death.
As expected, Fardeen had already chronicled his own death in the video and also made a call to arms in it.
Security experts privately admit that the video will do more harm than the attack on Lethpora camp as it makes Fardeen into a “martyr” for everyone who is inclined towards militancy.
“We now have a local fidayeen. A young local boy who managed to infiltrate into a CRPF camp and cause heavy damage. Moreover, his last message was tailor made of his age group. This is worrying. It will add to our problems. To be honest, I personally am out of ideas,” said a top police officer on condition of anonymity.
Senior broadcast journalist Mufti Islah wrote on a website: “Kashmiri militants have seldom posed as fidayeens though on a few occasions they have carried out suicide attacks, including one with a human bomb just outside the main entrance of the Army headquarters in Srinagar. Jaish-e-Mohammad and Lashkar-e-Taiba — architects of fidayeen attacks — appoint Pakistani militants to carry out such deadly strikes because they are better equipped for the job with rigorous training and judicious use of ammunition. However, in a major departure, it looks like Jaish has laid their trust on the local cadre”.
A close analysis of two hotbeds, Pulwama in south and Hajin in north, throws up startling results.
In both the areas, militancy has returned and is thriving. More so in Hajin, an area which was once home of the counter insurgency movement.
In both the areas, there seems to be a total lack of political engagement on behalf of the Government and total rejection of reconciliation on behalf by the local population.
“It is a paradox. It is almost as if young boys have developed a death wish. No amount of development or jobs seem to provide any breathing space. It’s almost like talking to walls. It’s also true that most of rural Kashmir lives a heavily militarized and generally a very depressing life where faultiness between us and them have only widened. Many are seeking relief in the form of violence,” says another top officer posted in a very sensitive area.
“Since 1947, the state has not been able to give round-the-clock electricity. How do you intend to win over people whom you have denied basic amenities of life,” the officer added.
Both these districts – Pulwama and Bandipora – have a very strong presence in the state Government with two most high profile ministries of Finance and Roads and Building belonging to them.
In 2014, Assembly and General Elections, both these districts, particularly the youth had voted in large numbers. The same youth today are a cause of anxiety for the Government as their anger and alienation on the ground is unrelenting.

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